Going through the Wikipedia page of Catarina Vasconcelos' The Metamorphosis of Birds, I came across a surprising detail. Please consider that I went blind into the film and didn't even read the genre tag on Netflix. I finished the movie, thinking I had watched a beautiful fictional film. However, Wikipedia tells me that The Metamorphosis of Birds is a "feature-length hybrid creative documentary." At first, I was taken aback by the word "documentary," but then I understood why the film felt as if it was coming from a very personal territory.
While watching The Metamorphosis of Birds, I noted that it produces the feeling of going through someone's personal life. That the narrator seems to be opening their photo album in front of your eyes and telling you about their intimate thoughts and memories. Of course, now I know that our guide is none other than the director herself - Catarina Vasconcelos - and that she examines her family history in the film.
The shots are meticulously composed and framed. They do appear like vignettes and sometimes resemble a painting. This style makes sense as Catarina looks at her past through her filmmaking lens. The dialogues, too, are as beautiful as the images. This is how a lieutenant talks about seas, "I often notice that the sea ignores my problems. But it has a lot to worry about, Beatriz. It has to create a lot of waves every day. There is a lot of fish that use it as shelter. There are a lot of souls which stayed here forever. The sea has no easy tasks. And I feel sorry for it." Indeed, the sea is busy with its own problems and cannot interfere with the lieutenant's issues or his crew, for that matter. The people on the ship want to go to their homes, but the sea cannot fulfill that wish.
This lieutenant is Henrique and Beatriz is his wife. These two talk to each other through letters. Since Henrique is mostly away sailing, he misses much of his domestic life. His kids grow and celebrate their birthdays in his absence while he lives those moments through Beatriz's letters and photographs. Henrique may not see his children growing, though that doesn't mean Beatriz - who lives with them - gets to experience a complete joy. She is somewhat sad about her kids maturing into adults, as that means they soon would stop depending on her for their needs. Again, this aspect of life is beautifully described by Henrique in the film. He looks at his children's photos and says something like, "The frames are incapable of containing them." Which just means that the parents cannot always control their kids.
The Metamorphosis of Birds is eloquent and poetic. The way it creates a connection between humans and nature, living and non-living, is fascinating. A child says that the trees have seen the birth of their parents, their grandparents, and so on. Perhaps, if nature could speak, it would have given us details about our ancestors. The movie's imaginative powers can be witnessed in the scene where it explores the patriarchal system using plugs and sockets. Sockets are described as females. They are attached to the walls, which means they cannot move. But without them, there is no possibility of light, heat, dryers, or shavers. Plugs, on the other hand, are like men. They can freely move around anywhere and enter the sockets they like. After making this observation, the movie begins to expand on them. It lists down the tasks of a woman. But as soon as it starts to talk about men, the voice gets interrupted by a hair dryer. The meaning becomes apparent. Men cannot bear to listen to their flaws, which is one of the aspects of patriarchy.
Beatriz's relationship with Henrique is compared to her bond with the almighty. She cannot see him but feels his presence. Later, when the movie translates conversations between birds, the phenomenon appears godlike. The Metamorphosis of Birds meditates on everything from life to death. It's deeply evocative and not so different from a spiritual exercise.
Final Score- [8.5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
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